Friday, November 8, 2013

Entry # 185 - "Nature Hedges Her Bets"

Red Maple - after the wind storm - by Jan Bowman -

I have spent most of September and October revising a manuscript at my desk while watching the seasonal changes in an amazing red maple behind my house. And while writing is hard, revising can be even more daunting. After the rush from seeing new work on the page, comes the sober reality of revisions. Many revisions. Words will come and go during revision until the text matches the vision. In fact, the word revision means to re-vision - to see again - what is possible.
Red Maple - just before it rained. -  by Jan Bowman

And I have been thinking that while nature is generous, and even extravagant, nature hedges her bets in all things. Nature produces an abundance of possibilities, more than the world could ever use. That maple tree behind my house puts out thousands of tiny winged seeds that sail into my garden. A few sprout every season, often in unlucky and unlikely places, like the cracks between the boards of the deck. I pull them up without much thought because they are in the wrong place, like some of the words in my original version of something I've written. I am confident that the tree will make more. But this year, I selected two seedlings and I have transplanted them into a large pot where I’ll let them grow stronger. Maybe next year, or the year after that, I’ll find a good safe spot that will likely need a maple tree someday.

That is what I have done with words, and even characters in my manuscript. I could not bear to discard some in my revision process, so I have put them into a file until such time as I find a suitable place to grow them. I might need them someday.
Red Sky & Red Maple - later that same day. by Jan Bowman

We are products of the natural world, not unlike trees that have a season of bountiful seeds and leaves, only to be followed by a season of bare branches. But nature hedges her bets with abundance and that is a small good thing to notice.

In his classic writing guide, On Writing Well, William Zinsser says,
"Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this as a consolation in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things that people do."
Coming Soon - Mermaids & Other Stories by Jan Bowman

About Jan Bowman

Jan Bowman’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, a Pen/O’Henry award and a recent story was a finalist in the 2013 Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at or


  1. Thank you so much for this beautiful way of looking at revisions and for the wonderful reminder that we are part of nature.

    1. Thank you for your comments. Always helpful to know someone out there is reading and thinking in our community of writers.